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Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Giving Tree

"Whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. What is soft is strong." – Lao Tzu

When I was growing up, I had a willow tree in my big Texas back yard. It's branches were more like vines which I would grasp and swing on. Afterward, I would lie in the shade and allow the tips of the green leaves to brush my face. I loved this tree so much that when I discovered "my tree" was in the beloved book, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, I checked it out from the library and absentmindedly never returned it.




When my own son was born, I began to read the book to him. In life, I tell him, we want to be like that tree. Strong and not blown over or distracted by every shiny object that comes our way. The roots and trunk give it stability, it's branches flexibility and the leaves mobility. And, in all ways, we should strive to be adaptable to the seasons of our life.

The tree never protested but always gave. I wonder if I did a little less stomping of my feet and demanding that the trees in my life give me more and more, I would be more calm. What strikes me most about a tree is there is no protest. There is only acceptance, adaptation to the changes in the environment, and largely integration.

Have you ever seen how when another plant (or object) comes in contact with a tree, it will just grow around it or become part of the tree? All of this happens over time. Not today, not tomorrow but with time.

What if we looked at the events in our life with a long lens. It's the difference between pushing our life and yielding to it. There is grace and strength in the yielding.



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The ability to call on courage.

I’ve thought a lot lately about the word courage. Courage is defined as the ability to confront fear, pain, or uncertainty.
 
Son #2 didn’t want to do a blood test this week and threw a huge fuss that had him frozen in fear. Even though chemo is over (thank God) for now, he just wasn’t sure what the nurses were doing, how long it would take, or if it would hurt. I reassured him before hand, but it was the experience of it that no words could soothe. It showed me how the fear of the unknown can paralyze, numb or make us bob up and down in a place of indecision. 
 
I don’t know about you but the last time I threw a fit like he did was…. yesterday. Yoga mom had to walk out of the hospital room for a few minutes to collect herself and figure out a way to communicate that calmed him, rather than making him feel more threatened. (Parenting and anger. That’s another topic all together. Please tell me I’m not alone here! I feel a bit like George in Seinfeld yelling, “serenity now!” Then, I remember to do what I tell my kids to do, just breathe.)
 
I’m not sure it matters how we tackle that fear or uncertainty, actually. Perhaps just allowing ourselves to wholeheartedly acknowledge and face it time and time again is what makes someone courageous. 
 
"I always thought courage was some kind of characteristic. I'd see people doing brave things and think "Well, they just simply have more courage than I do." But I now know that's not really true. The truth is that they call on their courage more than I call on mine. So it's not the courage one must develop, it's the calling. The ability to call. Anyone can practice this thing called calling." ~ Steve Chandler
 
There are so many that I know in my life who exhibit courage. A friend, uncomfortable in her own body, tried yoga for the first time and came back to try it again. My Dad, a 10 year caregiver to his wife with Alzheimer's, comes to mind. And, of course son #2. They’ve shown me how to practice the calling of courage.
 
Whether it’s something as life altering as chemo or simply having to start a new challenging project or even having to "speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences”, if we just begin, and know it will eventually end (everything does), then we can call upon the courage to face it. Personally, when I acknowledge that fear within me and choose not to run or hide from it, I am a little stronger and more able to uncover the robust potential of love underneath.
 
I appreciate what Brené Brown has to say about courage: 
 
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word courage is cor - the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant "To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart." Over time, this definition has changed, and today, we typically associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But in my opinion, this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -- good and bad. Speaking from our hearts is what I think of as 'ordinary courage.'"
I hope that whatever it is you’re facing this week that you find the calling and step out with ordinary courage. You don’t have to defeat your fears — you just have to dig into a part of yourself that has always been there and allow love (of yourself) to be a little stronger than the fear. Love, I’ve found, is really the absence of fear.
Wishing you a beautiful weekend. May Valentine’s (whether you celebrate or not) be a reminder to return to loving and being more gentle with yourself. 
 
In love and joy, 
 
Melissa 

*From my latest newsletter. To sign up click here.

Caregiver’s Wellness Retreat
For the Caregivers of Alzheimer’s: Caregiver’s Retreat near Houston, Texas, June 7th. Tools for wellness, it's free event with application. Read more here about the event and why over 20 yoga teachers and volunteers are inspired to make a difference. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

on love, compassion and courage.

It's a pretty vast cavern. That sometimes scary, sometimes euphoric space we navigate around love.

The more we love, the more courage is required. Where to gather this courage? Don't know, really. It usually arrives when I show up without agenda, compassionately.

The ability to hold love and pain together in the same moment; that is the incarnation of compassion.

Once I exhibit the courage to investigate without calculating expectations, I believe that's where I find tenderness and clarity.


I nudge forward.

Moving forward doesn't change the past or lessen my experiences. I now understand don't have to let go to grow. 

I can choose to un-dwell and view things from a sharper lens. Learning to tether my heart to myself, I am becoming steady and immovable within.

Realizing the greatest love affair of life is embracing mySelf with all it's wrinkles, crinkles, smiles, tears, joy, and pain. All of it.



And, just like that, not magically, but with consistent mindful effort, I know love is invariably worth the risk.


"I have learned not to worry about love; but to honor its coming with all my heart."~Alice Walker


MelissaSmithYoga.com and daily posts here





Monday, February 16, 2015

On Grief and Love stepping into bless us

One of my dearest friends lost her father recently and shared this quote below. Grief and death just isn't talked about much among my peers-- words of comfort or advice is usually given. Truly, until we have walked in someone else's shoes, we simply don't know everything they have been through. Any kind of loss: a loved one, a job, a marriage, a pet... brings grief, and it's process.

I'm always amazed when another layer of grief stops by to hold my hand again. This was comforting today:
"We can awaken while dying but we can also awaken while cleaning the cat sand. Perhaps the most deeply held justification we have for delaying our complete awakening is our belief that death is somehow transformational, or that our efforts to live a good life will be rewarded at that time....But what sense would it make for Love to wait for our organs to fail before stepping into bless us? It doesn't matter whether you view reported "near death experiences" scientifically or mystically, now continues to be the only time you can know God. And awareness of God is infinitely rewarding. The ego doesn't fade away merely because the body dies, and the eternal doesn't become more present after death. Why would it? Don't put off heaven. It surrounds you this very instant."~ Hugh Prather..Spiritual Notes to Myself.

"Practice dying means living as close to reality as we can in each moment. It is the ultimate bravery." This is from an earlier blog post on dying and includes a meditation that allowed me to draw awareness to releasing my fears of change that I tend to cling to.


Friday, January 23, 2015

The Top 10 Most Mispronounced Sanskrit Words

Meeting Nicolai Bachman for the first time at the Texas Yoga Conference years ago, I was struck by his confidence, knowledge and warmth. He was one of the most accessible and humble speakers there.

I am honored to be co-hosting a retreat with Nicolai July 9-12, 2015 in Santa Fe, New Mexico where we will dive into the yoga sutras, enjoy yoga and the beautiful mountains that surround us. Nicolai will teach 10 of his favorite and most practical Yoga Sutras, including their context, ways of interpreting, and sharing his own experience with them and how they can be applied to personal practices everyday. 

Here's a little sampling of Nicolai's expertise from an article I did with him.



More details for the retreat & to secure your spot (limited to 12 people): Register here

Friday, January 9, 2015

365 days of gratitude via snail mail

Almost 2 years ago, I started "365 days of gratitude via snail mail 
to extraordinarily beautiful souls” and documented the letters on Instagram.  
What is snail mail? I have been asked this question by a few folks just 
a bit younger than me, so perhaps it’s worth clarifying that it's a hand 
written letter received via your post box.
I’m 635 days into this project that I wanted to complete in a year. 
Frustrated with my inability to keep up, I felt like quitting many times. 
No one would notice an unfinished project that I’m not really accountable 
to anyone but myself. Abandoning the project would be the easy thing to do.
However, I am pretty stubborn and determined to conclude before 
the 2 year mark. What keeps me going? There’s something to be said for quality. 
I’d rather take more time to finish with perseverance than rush through 
it just to say I did it. Besides, I get so much joy out of writing letters. 
Takes me back to when my grandmothers would send me letters in 
their beautiful cursive handwriting telling me about nothing really: 
the weather, errands they would run or bits of family news.

There is also something sweet about sitting down with my coffee 

in the morning, sun shining through my sheer living room curtains 
and telling someone how much they have impacted my life.

In fact, I’d like to tell you, too, how much I have appreciated your 

support from across the miles. If you haven’t gotten a letter from 
me or want another one, please reply with your postal mailing address. 
I get a chuckle every time I ask someone for their address and 
they send me their email rather than postal address. 
Doesn’t anyone write by hand anymore? 

from Day 285: Rose Silva: a nurturing and caring soul who is pioneering sustainable yoga in her corner of Texas. Thank you for your loving and kind spirit. | 365 days of gratitude via snail mail to extraordinarily beautiful souls.

Is there something you started last year that you thought that you lost the energy or excitement to finish? Why not let this be your year to do it. Begin today. That’s all you have anyway, today. As the day unfolds, can you be present in it? Let that good, unhurried unfolding teach, heal, restore, encourage and direct you to specific and heartfelt thankfulness.


May 2015 be filled with joy, good health, love and omission of everything unnecessary revealing only what matters most. Let’s just do that, what matters most. 


This is from my latest yoga newsletter that is emailed about once a month, 
if you're interested in keeping up via your in-box, please sign up.

Friday, January 2, 2015

BirdWings



"Your grief for what you’ve lost lifts a mirror
up to where you’re bravely working.
Expecting the worst, you look, and instead,
here’s the joyful face you’ve been wanting to see.
Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
if it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
Your deepest presence is in every small contracting
and expanding,
The two as beautifully balanced and coordinated
as birdwings." ~ Rumi
I often find myself running through life airport to airport, my efforts spilling out in areas that I don't have to. Can I accept contracting so that my energy is reserved for things that matter most? 
Break open the joy inside. Peel away the loss and make obvious to me what others say they see: the grace and confidence that inhabits my own birdwings. 
Expansion is allowing my heart to be laid bare. Bravely examining the past as lessons so that next time, it's no longer a lesson but a choice. And in those choices I hope to be confident, as I recover from insecurities that have built up residue around my convictions. 
Leaning into aloneness and allowing for deep presence is preparing me for the next phase. A return to love within.
May 2015 be filled with that joy, good health, love and the omission of everything unnessary revealing only what matters most.  


Image: Georgia O'Keeffe | A Black Bird with Snow-Covered Red Hills